Patio Heater Buying Guide: What You Need to Know

Posted by on 5/1/2018
Patio Heater Buying Guide: What You Need to Know

Sitting huddled around a campfire on a summers night, telling stories, roasting marshmallows and having a good old laugh with your friends is many peoples idea of bliss.

But how often do you actually get to go camping?

There is a way to enjoy this relaxing social activity all year round - An outdoor patio heater!

Yes, an outdoor patio heater can transform your backyard into a haven both through the cool summer evenings and cold winter nights.

But before you grab your wallet and head to the store, we've got some handy tips to help you make the right choice.

So let's get started!

How Does a Patio Heater Actually Work?

Patio heaters work in two ways, either by burning fuel or through electricity. The heat generated is amplified through heat directing materials that warm a specific area. Patio heaters don't have a fan, they warm the area with radiant heat instead.

There are a variety of options for keeping your yard or patio nice and toasty, even on cold days. Keep reading to see what factors you should consider before buying.

How Do You Plan to Use It?

This is probably the number one consideration you should make before you buy an outdoor patio heater. Consider where you want to use it. Will you use it on the patio area, on the pool deck, in a gazebo, or even your front porch?

Think about how will it benefit you most. For example, if you generally sit around a table in the evenings, a tabletop heater will be perfect for you. Or if you want a focal point in a social gathering, a fire pit might do the trick.

What's Your Budget?

The cost of a patio heater varies depending on which type, size and style you go for. It's wise to have a budget before you shop, so you know the correct range to search in.

Some more expensive models might be worth the splurge if you plan to use it regularly. But if your needs are simple, then you can definitely find a good deal.

What Climate Do You Live In?

Think about the typical climate in your area. The weather conditions will determine how much heat you need and which type will be best for you.

Consider the weather during the times of year you'll actually want to use the patio heater. Is it just for summer nights? Or do you want to brave it on those freezing winter evenings?

What Kind of Fuel Type?

Most outdoor heaters are powered by one of four types of fuel sources. They each have pros and cons, but with some digging, you can find the best one for you. Let's take a look.

1. Wood

For a cozy atmosphere, a fire pit or chiminea is a good option. It obviously requires more maintenance than an electric heater, but you can't beat a real wood fire!


  • Creates a cozy atmosphere
  • Creates an atheistically pleasing focal point in your yad
  • Affordable to purchase
  • You could even build one yourself


  • Can be tricky to ignite
  • Maintaining the desired heating level can be quite a task
  • Requires more maintenance than other outdoor heaters
  • Depending on your location, it may be difficult or expensive to get wood
  • You need somewhere to store the wood

2. Propane

Propane patio heaters are super easy to use and can be set up absolutely anywhere you want. They don't need professional installation. And the fuel tank is normally hidden inside the unit.

Unfortunately, the fuel costs more than natural gas and wood. But because of its ease of use, many feel it's worth the extra dollars.


  • It heats up super fast
  • It is portable and can be moved anywhere you want easily
  • No difficult or timely installation is required


  • Propane fuel costs quite a bit more than natural gas and wood
  • Over time, gas tanks will need to be replaced
  • You should never use it in a covered or enclosed space

3. Natural Gas

Natural gas heaters have lower running costs. They have a constant flow of fuel, and you won't need to refill them yourself. These heaters should be professionally plumbed and hooked up to your gas line.

Because of the extra costs of installation, it can be more expensive. But in the long run, they are the cheapest to run and maintain.


  • Cheap in the long run
  • Maintenance is simple and easy


  • More expensive to buy
  • Requires professional installation
  • Due to attachment to the gas line, it may be difficult or impossible to move
  • Should not be used in a covered or enclosed space.

4. Electric

Electric patio heaters cost something in between propane and natural gas. They may need professional installation, depending on the wiring and voltage required. But they are altogether very convenient.

They operate simply and efficiently. They also produce heat effectively and on top of it all, are economic (producing zero emissions).


  • Easy to use - just plug in
  • Safe to use (even in covered or enclosed spaces)
  • Easy to maintain


  • Needs to be plugged in and kept close to an outlet
  • May cost more to use over time
  • Depending on the model, it may be slow to heat up

What Kind of Style?

Not only do you have to pick the fuel type, but you should also consider the kind of style you want.

Let's take a look at some popular design options.

Fire Pits and Chimineas

Wood burning fire pits and chimineas give the cozy rustic vibe that we mentioned earlier. They can be fairly cheap to purchase, but it depends on how large and fancy you require it to be!

If roasting marshmallows are your kind of thing...this is the best option!

Floor Standing Heaters

This is probably the most popular option. Most gas heaters come in this style. They are generally thin and tall with a sturdy base. They are great for giving off a good amount of heat.

You may have experienced one of these at an outdoor restaurant. Some even have wheels, allowing you to move them around easily.

Wall-Mounted and Hanging Heaters

These are popular with those who need to save floor space. For example, if your patio area is fairly small. They release a comfortable amount of heat, and they won't get in your way.

Although they vary in price and size, they are generally only available in electric.

Tabletop Heaters

Tabletop heaters are tiny in comparison to other models. They only have enough power to heat a limited space, but they are useful if you only need a small area to be heated.

Again, this is usually electric. They are lightweight and portable. They can also be bought in many attractive designs.

Safety Tips

As with any heat source, patio heaters come with risks.

For example, a standing patio heater will need to be strong enough to withstand a windy day. And fire pits should be observed carefully, so they don't get out of control.

All patio heaters, apart from electric, cannot be used in a covered or enclosed area. If you ignore this, you may put yourself at risk of both a fire hazard and carbon monoxide buildup.

Most accidents happen when you don't read the manual. Be sure to follow the guidelines and exercise caution. This will decrease the safety risks immensely.

Find the Right Patio Heater for You

As you can see, there are several different factors to consider before buying an outdoor patio heater. We hope this guide will help you make the right decision and enjoy those cozy nights outdoors.

For more buying tips on heaters and other home appliances, take a look at our blog!